Monday, February 28, 2005

Index Translationum

Index Translationum website:

"The Index Translationum is a list of books translated in the world, i.e. an international bibliography of translations. The data base contains cumulative bibliographical information on books translated and published in about one hundred of the UNESCO Member States since 1979 and totalling more than 1,500.000 entries in all disciplines : literature, social and human sciences, natural and exact sciences, art, history and so forth. It is planned to update the work every four months."

There are some interesting statistics available from the website on where books are translated, and languages involved.

Scientists Are Made, Not Born

The New York Times Op-Ed article by W. MICHAEL COX and RICHARD ALM (Registration required.)

Interesting data on graduation rates for women science and technology students in the United States, and on workforce participation.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Rethinking science aid

SciDev.Net editorial by Keith Bezanson and Geoffrey Oldham:

"During the past couple of years, a plethora of reports and books have addressed this issue. These have included reports from the World Bank, the Inter-Academy Council, the Millennium Development Project, and, most recently, the UK House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology.

"Each has its strengths and weaknesses. But they share a common feature: none has attempted to learn the lessons from the past 50 years of applying science and technology to development. "

"Higher Education: Free degrees to fly" Higher Education article (Subscription required.)

Growth of international higher education is soaring: 2 million university students—approaching 2% of the world's total of 100 million, "according to the International Finance Corporation—were studying outside their home country in 2003. Since the late 1990s the higher-education market has been growing by 7% a year. Annual fee income alone is now an estimated $30 billion. Private, profit-seeking institutions are still a minority, but almost all universities are beginning to compete for talent and money. That is breeding independence of government, both financially and psychologically; inexorably, the state's role is shrinking."

Task Force on the Future of American Innovation

Task Force website

Note especially the publication, "Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future".

Increasing Worry Is Expressed Over Paltry Commitment To Funding Physical Sciences And Engineering Research

Manufacturing News article:

"The innovation engine that has fueled the U.S. economy over the past two decades is sputtering and requires a large infusion of federal funds, argue some of the most prominent figures in American industry and academia. The United States is at a 'tipping point' in which funding for the physical sciences and engineering has reached a nadir, says the newly formed 'Task Force on the Future of American Innovation.' "

"Korea to Expand Science-Based Culture"

The Korea Times article:

Last year, the government of the Republic of Korea expanded and restructured the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), raising the position of the head of the ministry to the level of deputy prime minister. The Office of Science and Technology Innovation within the MOST has been established to help coordinating science and technology-related policies and carry out state-funded R&D activities more efficiently. The Ministry of Finance and Economy will manage macroeconomic matters now, while the MOST manages microeconomic issues. This administrative structure is unprecedented even in advanced countries and indicates a strong belief in economic growth driven by science and technology. The article goes on to enumerate many of the changes that have been made to strengthen the role of science and technology as a motor for Korea's economic growth. Oh Myung (Science-Technology Minister), The Korea Times, 02-21-2005

Global tobacco treaty takes force

BBC NEWS article:

"The world's first global health treaty - the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - has come into force. "

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Ideology and AIDS

The New York Times Editorial:

"The Bush administration has contributed to suffering and death through the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits Washington from giving money to any group that performs - or even talks about - abortions. Organizations that provide desperately needed family planning and women's health services have lost their financing. Now there are moves in Congress and inside the administration to apply a similar rule to needle exchange programs. That would be an even more deadly mistake."

Friday, February 25, 2005

WHO calls for Kyoto-style medical innovation treaty article:

"Countries around the world should sign up to a Kyoto-style treaty designed to boost medical innovation and affordable treatment, according to a petition submitted on Thursday to the World Health Organisation by non-governmental organisations, academics and politicians."

"World Population Prospects; The 2004 Revision"

Read the summary report

"World population is expected to increase by 2.6 billion over the next 45 years, from 6.5 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050. Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions, where today’s 5.3 billion population is expected to swell to 7.8 billion in 2050. By contrast, the population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion."

10 Voters on Panel Backing Pain Pills Had Industry Ties

The New York Times article: (Registration required.)

"Ten of the 32 government drug advisers who last week endorsed continued marketing of the huge-selling pain pills Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx have consulted in recent years for the drugs' makers, according to disclosures in medical journals and other public records.

"If the 10 advisers had not cast their votes, the committee would have voted 12 to 8 that Bextra should be withdrawn and 14 to 8 that Vioxx should not return to the market. The 10 advisers with company ties voted 9 to 1 to keep Bextra on the market and 9 to 1 for Vioxx's return."

This says something about the quality of knowledge one gets depending on the FDA.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mapping the Global Future

National Intelligence Council Report

This is the latest in a series of reports prepared by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, forecasting global economic, social and technological developments.

Group Awarded AIDS Grant Despite Negative Appraisal ( article:

"The Bush administration's global AIDS program last fall awarded a grant to promote abstinence in African youth to a politically connected Washington advocacy group, even though the expert committee reviewing requests for government money judged the request 'not suitable for funding.'

"The decision by the committee was overruled by the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a key agency implementing the five-year, $15 billion Bush AIDS plan. On Nov. 1, the administration's global AIDS office approved a grant for an unspecified amount of money to the Children's AIDS Fund. "

Barcode of Life

Barcode of Life website

Short sequences of DNA appear to allow species determination. This website reports on research using the barcode of life approach. Results so far indicate that many new species will be discovered at relatively affordable cost by identifying "cryptic species" that are actually composed of several distinct species that are similar in appearance, and clarifying their taxonomy.

OPEN ACCESS: Interactive peer review enhances journal quality

Ulrich Pöschl's article in Research Information

"In all the talk of journals pricing and reducing the turnaround of the peer review process, the issue of quality can get overlooked. Ulrich Pöschl describes an open-access journal that is seeking to redress the balance."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Helping Developing Nations

White House Developing Nations webpage:

"President George W. Bush has said that combating poverty is a moral imperative and has made it a U.S. foreign policy priority. To meet this challenge, the President has proposed a 'new compact for development' that increases accountability for rich and poor nations alike, linking greater contributions by developed nations to greater responsibility by developing nations."

This site provides the Bush Administration's rational for increasing development assistance, including that provided via multilateral organizations. Unfortunately, the materials don't appear to have dates attached, and there may be differences between these explicit policy statements, and the policies that will be implicit in budgets and programs.

Still, an interesting site.

World Bank donors boost aid for poorest countries news story:

"The World Bank's 40 largest donors on Tuesday raised their contributions to the bank's lowest-cost lending arm for poor countries by 25 percent, putting total resources at $34 billion for the next three years, the bank's chief negotiator said."

WHO warns of bird flu pandemic

BBC NEWS article:

"World health officials have issued their strongest warning yet about the global threat posed by bird flu. "

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Who Replaces the President of the World Bank Editorial comment :

"The difference between statesmen and mere politicians lies, above all, in their sense of responsibility. George W. Bush has been given an opportunity to demonstrate that virtue in his nomination of a new president of the World Bank. His instincts will be to nominate an American mediocrity. But his interests lie in nominating a person who is neither mediocre nor American. Such a candidate exists: he is Ernesto Zedillo, Mexico's former president."

BBC NEWS | Technology | Global blogger action day called

BBC NEWS story:

"The global web blog community is being called into action to lend support to two imprisoned Iranian bloggers," Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad.


Committee to Protect Bloggers website promoting the Day of Protest:

Mojtaba and Arash are two Iranian bloggers who were arrested by the Iranian government. Today is a day of protest in their honor.

Monday, February 21, 2005

China, South Korea Will Flaunt United Nations Request to Ban Human Cloning

LifeNews.Com article

"Officials in China and South Korea on Monday say they will flaunt a resolution approved by a United Nations legal committee last week calling on nations around the world to ban all forms of human cloning."

UN bans reproductive cloning

The Scientist article: "

Non-legally binding agreement doesn't explicitly address therapeutic cloning "

Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda win academy funds

SciDev.Net article: "

Academies of science in Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda have been chosen to receive funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help boost their ability to provide African governments and the public with advice on science-related issues."

Panelists Decry Bush Science Policies

Yahoo! News article:

"The voice of science is being stifled in the Bush administration, with fewer scientists heard in policy discussions and money for research and advanced training being cut, according to panelists at a national science meeting.

"Speakers at the national meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science expressed concern Sunday that some scientists in key federal agencies are being ignored or even pressured to change study conclusions that don't support policy positions. "

Panel to Advise Testing Babies for 29 Diseases

The New York Times article (registration required)

"An influential federal advisory group plans to recommend in the next few weeks that all newborns be screened for 29 rare medical conditions, from the well known, like sickle cell anemia, to diseases so obscure that they are known to just a handful of medical specialists and a few dozen devastated families.

"But while no one argues with the idea of saving babies, the proposed screening is generating fierce debate.

"The dispute centers on how useful the test findings would be. Would going ahead with the full list of tests result in more good than harm, physically and emotionally? Or would it be better to forgo most of them?"

This controversy raises interesting questions. For example, when is it better not to obtain knowledge? When is the cost of obtaining knowledge not justified by the benefits that are likely to flow from that knowledge? Would it be acceptable to run a panel of tests on a sample of the population to provide epidemiological data, even if it were not justifiable to run the panel on all children to enhance medical care of the individuals? If so, what information would one ethically give the parents?

Thinking about Knowledge for Development is not always easy!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

African Studies - Science and Technology

Go to the portal

This portal links to a relatively large number of selected website relating to science and technology in Africa.

The Measuring-ICT Website

Go to the website:

"The Measuring-ICT Website is both an online source of information on indicators, methodologies and statistics related to the information society and a forum that allows practitioners from all countries -- developed as well as developing - to engage in discussions on e-measurement related topics and to further develop conceptual and methodological work."

"Information and Communication Technology Development Indices"

Download the report

The paper reviewed and evaluated existing work to measure ICT development from different sources. On the basis of this earlier work, a theoretical framework has been formulated with a view to measuring ICT development, including indicators for connectivity, access, usage and policy. The framework was used to benchmark and analyse the diffusion of ICT capabilities across 160–200 countries for 1995–2001. This paper was prepared by Ms. Philippa Biggs under the guidance of Mr. Mongi Hamdi of the UNCTAD secretariat. UNCTAD, 2003. (PDF, 96 pages.)

"Information and Communication Technology Development Indices"

Download the report

The paper reviewed and evaluated existing work to measure ICT development from different sources. On the basis of this earlier work, a theoretical framework has been formulated with a view to measuring ICT development, including indicators for connectivity, access, usage and policy. The framework was used to benchmark and analyse the diffusion of ICT capabilities across 160–200 countries for 1995–2001. This paper was prepared by Ms. Philippa Biggs under the guidance of Mr. Mongi Hamdi of the UNCTAD secretariat. UNCTAD, 2003. (PDF, 96 pages.)

Investment and technology policies for competitiveness: review of successful country experiences

Download the report

This paper discusses the role of foreign direct investment in transferring technology, building technological capabilities and enhancing competitiveness. It also emphasizes that foreign direct investment should be maximized and complemented by appropriate country policies. This paper was prepared for the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development by Sanjaya Lall. 2003. (PDF, 79 pages.)

"Africa's Technology Gap"

Download the report

This study examines the technology framework in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, with a focus on the transfer of technology as well as its absorption and use in the manufacturing industry. The report contains recommendations on how Governments address the technological requirements for competitiveness, gain access to new technologies and foster technological development. The study was prepared by Sanjaya Lall and Carlo Pietrobello, with the assistance of Joseph Oko Gogo, Geoffrey Ngugi Mokabi, Godwill George Wanga, and Paul N. S. Sagala. It was undertaken as part of the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP), a project undertaken jointly by UNCTAD, the World Trade Organization and the International Trade Centre. July, 2003. (PDF, 123 pages.)

Science and technology promotion, advice and application for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals

CSTD Panel Meeting website

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) held a panel on "Science and technology promotion, advice and application for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals", 27-29 October 2004 in Vienna, Austria. The website includes the issues paper for the panel, a CSTD staff paper, papers by the resource persons available to the panel, country reports for 12 countries, and two submissions by UN agencies. There are also a number of online resources related to the use of science and technology in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The findings and recommendations that emerged from this panel are to be considered by the Commission at its eighth session in May 2005.

RUN - Research in the UN: Home

RUN - Research in the UN: Home

This website is intended to be a searchable database of reports of research conducted in the United Nations system. In is in the testing stage, and may change even in structure. To date it contains reports for four institutes of the U.N. University. While the unified database for resources from these four centers appears useful, if the portal is expanded to include the other U.N. agencies it will become a major source for development information.

"Cambridge don challenges conventional wisdom on "Good" Policies and Institutions"

UNU/INTECH Seminar Highlights:

"You could write a history of development economics by looking at the succession of catch-phrases that have captured the reigning orthodoxies of the day. If you did, there is little doubt that the current chapter would be entitled 'Good Governance.' For the past ten years, the international policy-advice establishment centred on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has promoted the notion that no economic strategy can succeed as long as poor countries are governed by ineffective and corrupt bureaucracies, managing inadequate and outmoded institutions.

"If good governance - and its corollary, good institutions - are the centrepieces of the current development orthodoxy, Dr. Ha-Joon Chang must be counted as its heretic-in-chief. For the past two years, this Cambridge economics professor has led an iconoclastic push against the received wisdom. 'Good governance,' Dr. Chang says, 'should be seen as one of the effects of development rather than as one of the causes.' "

This position would seem to challenge the central theme of my paper, "The Institutional Divide: Is The Digital Divide a Symptom or a Cause?" In that paper I argued that institutional development is perhaps more important than bridging the digital divide. However, more basically, I argued that institutions are developing and that ICT innovation would both be demanded by the institutional development and would help propel that development.

UN University Unveils Plans for a Major Global Centre on Innovation and Development

UNU Press Release

A proposal to merge the Maastricht based United Nations University Institute for New Technologies (UNU-INTECH) with the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) would create a major global research centre focusing on innovation and development. The new institute eventually is expected to be fully integrated into the worldwide network that is the United Nations University (UNU) will be worked out. The combined facility would be the largest of its kind in the application of new technologies to help the developing world.

U.S. Policy towards UNESCO

I attended a seminar yesterday at the AAAS annual meeting titled: “UNESCO: Opportunities Upon U.S. Reentry.” A key concern of the participants was the degree to which U.S. participation in UNESCO could further the interests of the United States. There was a lot of very reasonable discussion about the value of education, the utility of a multilateral agency is promoting exchanges that would be useful and important for U.S. scientists, and the value of protecting tangible and intangible cultural elements.

I could not help thinking, however, that the discussion missed the forest for the trees. UNESCO was created some 60 years ago by people emerging from World War II who were deeply concerned with keeping the peace. Some very wise folk among them believed that war began in the minds of men, and that the long term solution to war was to change the way people think.

UNESCO was created as the U.N. agency focused on the mind of man. First emphasizing education and culture, science was added to the mix. UNESCO is the agency of reason. Its task is the promotion and diffusion of the Enlightenment. For UNESCO's founders, education was a central tool in changing thought processes to promote peace.

There was concern in the seminar that UNESCO’s budget (of some US$600 million for the next two years) is limited. Of course UNESCO will need to define priorities and focus its efforts on these priorities. But that concern underestimates the importance of ideas and the influence that UNESCO can have. The World Heritage program exemplifies the potential to have great influence without having a huge budget. Hundreds of World Heritage sites have been chosen, and for each, many people in the country involved have devoted considerable time and effort to creating the proposal to include the site. The declaration that a site is a World Heritage site changes the way people think about the site, and there seems to be real effort to be sure that the preservation efforts are adequate to pass muster at the periodic reviews of the sites. UNESCO’s funding for the World Heritage program is only a tiny part of the resources the program catalyzes in support of maintenance of the world’s environmental and cultural heritage.

Comparing UNESCO with the bilateral development agencies and the international financial institutions in terms of available funds is misleading. U.N. agencies have experts on the ground offering policy advice. The financing institutions also have experts, but they are fewer in number, and they are involved in managing financial projects. Ideally, UNESCO and the financial institutions should work together, providing complementary services for development. Thus, UNESCO’s staff experts can leverage their advice through cooperation by utilizing the financing from the richer donor agencies (and, more importantly, the financing from within its client countries.)

Science is important in changing the way people think, and ultimately the probability of conflict. Scientific thinking is based on evidence, especially replicated evidence. It depends on relation of observation to theory. It depends on peer review of analysis. It depends on the slow accumulation of scientific paradigms, supported by expanding bodies of evidence. I suggest that the more widely scientific thinking is understood and used in a society, the more free that society will be of the malignant thought processes that lead to war.

Tony Blair has made the reduction of poverty the theme of the U.K.’s term of leadership of the G7. Many more people have died of poverty during the lifetime of UNESCO than died in World War II, and the world has increasingly come to see poverty reduction as the major goal of the U.N. agencies. Clearly education is central to poverty reduction. President Museveni of Uganda recently wrote that scientists deserve more pay than he does as president, since they contribute more to economic development. In the long run, I think that the role of UNESCO is absolutely central to poverty alleviation.

President Bush, in the State of the Union message emphasized the promotion of democracy and liberty as U.S. international policy goals. In this respect, he was in the mainstream of a century of U.S. political thought – an ally of Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. Certainly UNESCO’s communication program, that fosters freedom of the press and freedom of expression, is instrumental in the spread of democracy and liberty. But more fundamentally, the institutionalization of these ideas depends on the way people in a society think. Liberty and democracy are found in societies with large numbers of educated people, with strong traditions valuing rationality. The development of liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and democracy will be long term efforts, and will depend on the changes promoted by UNESCO.

We know that these goals are strongly interrelated. Poor countries are seldom democratic; rich, democratic countries don’t war among themselves. The efforts to promote peace, reduce poverty, and promote liberty and democracy are synergistic. UNESCO’s approach is central to all three goals. Moreover, UNESCO as a multilateral agency can do things impossible to U.S. bilateral foreign policy.

UNESCO is also the U.N. agency most concerned with culture. While there is a lot of discussion now of the preservation of culture, it is important to recognize that cultures change. The only cultures that don’t change are the dead cultures studied by archaeologists. The most important question for UNESCO, then, is not how to preserve culture but how to help cultures to change in positive ways. Few would challenge that cultures should not change to make their members wiser and more knowledgeable. Ultimately, U.S. foreign policy needs to promote cultural change that promotes peace, discourages terrorism, promotes liberty and democracy, and militates against poverty in all its aspects. Ultimately, a stong and effective UNESCO should be seen as a central tool of U.S. foreign policy!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Divided UN panel opposes all forms of human cloning

Reuters AlertNet story:

"A deeply divided U.N. General Assembly committee adopted a nonbinding statement on Friday calling on governments to prohibit all forms of human cloning, including techniques used in research on human stem cells.
The assembly's legal committee voted 71 to 35 with 43 abstentions in favor of the proposal put forward by Honduras and backed by the George W. Bush administration."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Science for the 21st Century

White House website for the report:

"This document was produced under the direction of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Science. The document details, from a Federal agency perspective, the science policies and accomplishments of the current Administration, and illustrates how today's science sets the stage for benefits to the economy and national quality of life far into the future. "

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

UNESCO treaty on protecting oral traditions could come into force next year

UN Media Center report

A treaty that would protect, among other things, the world’s knowledge of nature is on track to enter into force next year following a slew of new ratifications, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today. Thus, traditional scientific and some traditional technological knowledge may receive new protection.

Chilling mystery: Why don't Mexicans read books? story:

"Competitive pressures in a country where 3,000 copies sold makes a bestseller have pushed 4 out of every 10 bookstores in Mexico out of business over the past 10 years, according to the Mexican Booksellers Association.

"Meanwhile, from 2001 to 2004, roughly 10 percent of all publishers have shut down. And despite myriad efforts to encourage reading and thus increase book buying, the crisis shows no sign of abating.....

"'The fundamental problem is that there are few readers,' says Jose Angel Quintanilla, president of the National Chamber of the Mexican Publishing Industry, which is holding meetings between publishers and booksellers to establish price controls."

The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2004

FAO report

Prices for agricultural commodities on world markets have fallen by around two percent per year during the last four decades. The good news is that falling prices mean cheaper food for poor people and poor, food-importing countries. The bad news is that the reduced prices mean loss of income and unemployment for the rural poor and for agriculturally based countries. The agricultural problems of poor nations are exacerbated by: agricultural subsidies in rich countries; tariffs on higher-value, processed products; and the inability of poorer farmers to diversify their production. This is the first issue of a new biennial publication of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The report is available in Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish as well as English. (PDF, 55 pages.)

The Doctor's World: A Public Health Quandary: When Should the Public Be Told?

The New York Times article: (registration required.)

"It is a classic public health problem: how much information is enough to warn the public about a potential health threat?

"In deciding, health officials must weigh the risks of losing credibility by causing unnecessary alarm against the benefits of releasing timely information to prevent one or a few cases from turning into an outbreak."

The commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was faced by the problem of how to deal with the identification of a man who had drug resistant HIV, was an intravenous drug user, and had hundreds of (untraceable) sex partners. He chose to alert the public via the media to the public health threat. In this case, the decision of a public health physician was probably different than that of a research scientist or research epidemiologist, who would be reluctant to publish results based on a single case. What constitutes “knowledge” may depend on who holds it, and how it is to be used.

FDA Plans New Board To Monitor Drug Safety article:

"The Food and Drug Administration will create an independent board to more aggressively monitor the safety of drugs on the market as part of an effort to restore public confidence in the nation's prescription drug supply, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced yesterday."

Assuming that the required knowledge can be marshaled, this initiative may prove valuable. The pharmaceutical testing done before FDA approval, to assure safety, efficacy and effectiveness, is expensive but limited. As a drug is used by millions of people for their regular care, much more experience is developed on the drug’s effects – both good and bad. Modern ICT for the first time makes it affordable to gather and analyze this information. The drug companies have little motivation to gather such information, as it may suggest that drugs be withdrawn from the market or limited in application, and it may support the legal position of patients suing for damages as a result of drug reactions. But governments can and should gather and use this information to improve protection of their citizens. Not surprisingly, the approval of this new function for the FDA is likely to be the subject of intense political controversy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Forbidden Knowledge

Science magazine Policy Forum Article-- Kempner et al. 307 (5711): 854 (Subscription required.)

Interviews with 51 scientists showed that "nearly half the researchers felt constrained by explicit, formal controls, such as governmental regulations and guidelines codified by universities, professional societies, or journals." the scientists "generally agreed that formal controls offered important protections". Of course, they did not accept all such restrictions as appropriate or efficient means of achieving the desired protection. "Respondents felt most affected by what we characterize as 'informal constraints.' Researchers sometimes only know that they have encountered forbidden knowledge when their research breaches an unspoken rule and is identified as problematic by legislators, news agencies, activists, editors, or peers."

State Dept. Relaxes Visa Rules for Some Scientists and Students

The New York Times article: (registration required.)

"Responding to concerns that onerous visa requirements are discouraging foreign students and scientists from coming to the United States, the State Department has extended the time many of them can remain before renewing security clearances.
The clearance is required for foreigners working in areas the government deems 'sensitive.' Fields like chemistry, engineering and pharmacology can be in that category."

A weatherman for the world article

"At the World Earth Summit in Brussels Wednesday, the nations are expected to launch a 10-year effort — spearheaded by the USA — to establish a global system that will be a weather watchdog — and much more.

"The 'Global Earth Observation System of Systems' will not only eyeball extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, but also will improve long-range forecasts, warn about earthquakes and disease outbreaks, spot forest fires and estimate the ecological effects of development and climate change."

Uganda: Scientists should be well paid

Science in Africa Opinion Article:

"Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni explains why african nations should invest heavily in science and why scientists should be well paid."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Global Dialogue on Emerging Science and Technology (GDEST)

U.S. Department of State: "At the Horizon" Policy Initiatives:

"Recognizing the importance of fast-moving developments in science and security, and capitalizing on the National Academies' preeminent convening capacity in all areas of science and technology, at the request of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of the Department of State, the Division on Policy and Global Affairs' Program on Development, Security, and Cooperation has established the Global Dialogues on Emerging Science and Technology (GDEST). This program will comprise a series of science and engineering conferences on fundamental research. These bilateral dialogues are intended to help contribute to global security, to the meeting of human needs and to advancing knowledge. They will facilitate interactions between leading U.S. scientists and engineers and their foreign peers and especially young investigators."

State Dept. Relaxes Visa Rules for Some Scientists and Students

The New York Times article:

"Responding to concerns that onerous visa requirements are discouraging foreign students and scientists from coming to the United States, the State Department has extended the time many of them can remain before renewing security clearances.

"The clearance is required for foreigners working in areas the government deems 'sensitive.' Fields like chemistry, engineering and pharmacology can be in that category."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Global MapAid, UNHCR, C-Safe, United Nations, Africa, food security, mapping, maps

Global MapAid website

"Global MapAid, a not-for-profit organisation, was initiated with a view of supplying specialist maps to emergency aid workers. The focus is to map humanitarian crises hotspots by capturing data to assist in food security, drought, HIV monitoring and orphanage survey programmes. GMA’s mission is to assist aid efforts towards the hungry poor by providing and assisting in the provision of mapping and corresponding communications systems for aid agencies....

"The Group consists of experienced Aid Workers, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Analysts, web developers, and twelve core volunteers from Stanford University.The Stanford volunteer’s duties will encompass short-term assignments where they will be responsible for data collection and project proposal writing."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The G7, aid and debt article: (Subscription required.)

"Five years after the campaign's deadline, many poor countries are still burdened. The 38 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs), most of them African, owe money not to rich nations, most of which have cancelled their bilateral debts, but to multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (ADB). On February 5th the HIPCs were given hope. Finance ministers of the Group of Seven rich countries, meeting in London, said that 'as much as' 100% of their multilateral debts should be forgiven."

The issue of contention seems to be how, given their current budget problems, the G7 nations will replenish the World Bank and Asian Development Bank funds if those organizations forgive the debt of poor nations.

Briefing for Condoleezza Rice on USAID

PDF file with briefing slides

USAID staff presented this briefing, dated January 2005. It gives a broader picture of foreign aid than is usually found, although it seems to leave out U.S. contributions to the United Nations family of agencies, and the funding of the International Financial Institutions (of the World Bank family) made possible by U.S. guarantees and contributions.

ASIA Region Primed for an AIDS Disaster, Experts Warn

Inter Press Service News Agency report:

"Asia is poised on the brink of an HIV/AIDS explosion unless governments take radical steps to rein in the disease, as well as the social and economic problems fuelling its spread, a prominent AIDS expert said Wednesday in New York. "

US blocks aid boost for Africa article:

British finance minister Gordon Brown, "who chaired the G7 talks, had pushed for a complete write-off of African debt and a doubling of aid to $100-billion (about R600-billion) a year, but the latter proposal ran into US opposition and there was no agreement on it."

G7 backs Africa debt relief plan

BBC NEWS article:

"G7 finance ministers have backed plans to write off up to 100% of the debts of some of the world's poorest countries. "

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ranking the Rich 2004

Foreign Policy: article:

"The second annual CGD/FP Commitment to Development Index ranks 21 rich nations on how their aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology policies help poor countries. Find out who's up, who's down, why Denmark and the Netherlands earn the top spots, and why Japan -- once again -- finishes last."

No Country Left Behind

Foreign Policy article:

"Development is not a 'soft' policy goal, but a core national security issue, says Colin Powell, as he draws the main lessons of his four years as U.S. secretary of state. However, contrary to what critics say, the best way to lift millions out of poverty is not to increase levels of foreign aid. Instead, the United States must engage in tough love and demand that corrupt, autocratic regimes change their ways."

Think Again: U.S. Foreign Aid

Foreign Policy article:

"Shortly after a tsunami swept through the Indian Ocean last December, a U.N. official complained that the West was 'stingy' with its relief donations. Stung by this criticism, the Bush administration increased its financial pledge tenfold overnight -- while loudly asserting that the United States actually led the global pack in foreign aid. Is the world's wealthiest country a scrooge or a savior?"

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Greening U.S. Foreign Aid through the Millennium Challenge Account

Brookings Institution POLICY BRIEF #119 (June 2003):

"ABSTRACT: Congress will soon take up President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) proposal, which would dramatically increase U.S. foreign aid. The MCA represents a tremendous opportunity to fight global poverty and make U.S. development assistance more effective. In the form proposed by the president, however, the MCA would needlessly harm the environment and hinder long-term economic development. To guard against this, Congress should build the MCA's mission around the broader concept of sustainable development rather than economic growth alone, make environmental protection a priority, and require the MCA to analyze the environmental consequences of its activities. These steps would foster stronger, wiser international development, advance broader U.S. security interests, and bring the MCA in line with longstanding, bipartisan U.S. policy and international norms."

AIDS, foreign assistance big budget winners

The Washington Times story, February 09, 2005:

The FY2006 budget proposed by the Bush Administration would increase foreign aid spending by nearly 16 percent, to $22.8 billion. "AIDS prevention and overseas assistance would get major increases under President Bush's budget, which calls for a big boost in foreign aid programs even as U.S. farmers, veterans and train riders face cutbacks." Thus, the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance and diplomacy programs proved to be unexpected winners in the bureaucratic infighting that lead to the fiscal 2006 federal budget released by Mr. Bush on Monday.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Public Knowledge Project

Public Knowledge Project website:

"Since 2001, the Public Knowledge Project has offered free, open source software for the management and publishing of journals and conferences. Open Journal Systems and Open Conference Systems are being used in various places around the world to reduce publishing costs, improve management, enhance indexing, and increase access to knowledge on a global scale. "

Monday, February 07, 2005

Debt write-off deal close says G7

Guardian Unlimited Special Reports:

"But US critical of proposals to help world's poorest nations "

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Malaria vaccine - a "revolution in our time"

Developments - The International Development Magazine article:

"UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has stepped in to buy up significant stocks of a 'revolutionary' new anti-malaria vaccine, to ensure it is available to developing countries at a reasonable cost.

"An effective new vaccine has been developed and could be licensed by 2010, scientists say. But Gordon Brown was concerned for its future viability, since in this area of research there were 'insufficient purchasers with funds'. Anxiety had been expressed that poorer nations would not be able to afford the new vaccine."

NEPAD Science and Technology Forum

NEPAD Science and Technology Forum website:

"The African Forum on Science and Technology for Development (AFSTD) was established by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to promote the application of science and technology for economic growth and poverty reduction. "

S&T Capacity Building in Africa

SciDev.Net website with extensive materials from the conference:

News reports, transcripts and other material from an international seminar held in London on 31 January and 1 February 2005.

"The meeting brings together African, British and Canadian policy-makers, researchers and research users to discuss how to collaborate more effectively in building science and technology capacity in Africa."

Tools for policy impact: a handbook for researchers

Eldis description of and links to the handbook:

"This handbook presents tools for achieving policy impact, specifically geared towards the needs of researchers. The key points of each tool or technique is described, and links are provided to relevant training materials. "

What factors lead to successful research partnerships?

Eldis description of and link to report:

"This study is based on analyses of a number of case studies encompassing a wide variety of research partnerships between the North and the South, discussions held during the various workshops of the 'Impact Assessment Working Group', and the conclusions derived. The book focuses on potential impacts of such research partnerships -- impacts beyond the scientific advance, namely 'attitudinal changes', impacts on capacity strengthening, and impacts on society or on decision-makers."

African treaty to protect forest

BBC NEWS article:

"Leaders of seven African nations have signed a joint treaty to protect their continent's massive rainforest - second only to that found in the Amazon basin. "

Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production

Yale Law Journal article:

"This Essay offers a framework to explain large-scale effective practices of sharing private, excludable goods. It starts with case studies of carpooling and distributed computing as motivating problems. It then suggests a definition for shareable goods as goods that are ?lumpy? and ?mid-grained? in size, and explains why goods with these characteristics will have systematic overcapacity relative to the requirements of their owners. The Essay next uses comparative transaction costs analysis, focused on information characteristics in particular, combined with an analysis of diversity of motivations, to suggest when social sharing will be better than secondary markets at reallocating this overcapacity to nonowners who require the functionality. The Essay concludes with broader observations about the attractiveness of sharing as a modality of economic production as compared to markets and to hierarchies such as firms and government. These observations include a particular emphasis on sharing practices among individuals who are strangers or weakly related; sharing?s relationship to technological change; and some implications for contemporary policy choices regarding wireless regulation, intellectual property, and communications network design. "

The economics of sharing article: (subscription required)

"Economists have not always found it easy to explain why self-interested people would freely share scarce, privately owned resources. Their understanding, though, is much clearer than it was 20 or 30 years ago: co-operation, especially when repeated, can breed reciprocity and trust, to the benefit of all. In the context of open source, much has been written about why people would share technical talent, giving away something that they also sell by holding a job in the information-technology industry. The reason often seems to be that writing open-source software increases the authors' prestige among their peers or gains them experience that might help them in the job market, not to mention that they also find it fun.......

"One of the most articulate proponents of the open-source approach, Yochai Benkler of Yale Law School, argues in a recent paper* that sharing is emerging for certain physical, rivalrous goods and will probably increase due to advances in technology."


ClimatePredictions.Net website

This project has put together a distributed computing network of some 95,000 PCs, and is using them to simulate climate change. The first results of the project, suggesting higher than previously reported temperature changes as a result of global warming, were published in Nature on January 27, 2005. (See the related YahooNews! Science/Reuters article.) The effort has to date simulated 4,702,416 model years of climate. People from 150 countries (from Uruguay to Uzbekistan and Sierra Leone to Singapore) have downloaded the software, allowing their computers to run the simulations on background.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI@home) is a more famous and larger application using a distributed network of home computers as a super computer.

Grand Challenges in Global Health

Grand Challenges in Global Health website

The Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative was established to support scientific and technological research that addresses critical scientific challenges in global health and increased research on diseases that cause millions of deaths in the developing world. An extensive consultation was undertaken to define the challenges that would be addressed. The program is administered by The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) under a $200 Million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Goals against which it is funding grants are: To improve childhood vaccines; To create new vaccines; To control insects that transmit agents of disease; To improve nutrition to promote health (including to "Create a full range of optimal, bioavailable nutrients in a single staple plant species."); To improve drug treatment of infectious diseases (including to "Discover drugs and delivery systems that minimize the likelihood of drug resistant micro-organisms."); To cure latent and chronic infections; and To measure disease and health status accurately and economically in developing countries.

Fundraising Begins for Network of Four African Institutes

Science magazine article (Science -- Normile 307 (5709): 499a): (Subscription required.)

"A group of African scientists, engineers, and educators will gather this weekend in Ajuba, Nigeria, to announce plans to transform education and research in sub-Saharan Africa. Their goal is a network of four regional schools that will train 5000 scientists and engineers per year and provide world-class research facilities. And they are looking for big money to bankroll the plans--an endowment of $500 million by 2007 for the first institute and up to $5 billion to support all four."

Cameroon Suspends AIDS Study

Sciencenow article -- Cohen 2005 (204): 2 Sciencenow (Subscription required (I think).

"The Ministry of Health in Cameroon yesterday suspended a study of HIV transmission to uninfected sex workers. The suspension was in response to a campaign by the AIDS activist group ACT UP Paris, which has branded the studies 'unethical' and accuses the researchers of using participants as 'guinea pigs.'"

The study intended to be in operation for one year began in June and completed enrollment in December. The trial, run by Family Health International (FHI), involves 400 participants (mostly sex workers) who are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV and who are randomized to either take daily doses of the drug tenofovir or a placebo. All volunteers receive counseling about how condoms help prevent HIV infection. The study received approval from the Ministry of Health, as well as institutional review boards in Cameroon and the United States.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Help Asia stop the bird flu, now

International Herald Tribune Article

"We call on the governments concerned and the international community to act now to find solutions to the challenges posed by these outbreaks. The threat of an influenza pandemic transcends the concerns and capacities of any individual nation or region. For the tsunami, the world had no warning. For the avian influenza, the world is constantly being alerted about the danger. Let us all heed the warning.
Dr. Hans Troedsson, representative in Vietnam of the World Health Organization, and Dr. Anton Rychener of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Chirac à Brazzaville pour un sommet sur les forêts

Article: Yahoo! Actualités

"Les chefs d'Etat des sept pays membres du bassin du Congo et la communauté internationale se retrouvent samedi à Brazzaville avec pour objectif essentiel de faire avancer concrètement leur programme de conservation et de gestion durable des forêts d'Afrique centrale."